First Looks// World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Posted 10 Dec 2010 15:45 by
Now, this is in no way a review (you'll get one of those from me early in the new year), but more of a first look at my experience so far. Admission time. I have never been the most ardent player of World of Warcraft. As a matter of fact, I wasn't even there on Day One, I actually joined in the fun just before Wrath of the Lich King (the second expansion) was released.

That doesn't mean that I don't love the game, though. As a matter of fact, I honestly believe that WoW is one of the most impressive games ever created. The lore is incredibly detailed, it looks good (even on my valve powered PC) and despite what certain elements on the BBC may say, has a healthy and happy community who love to throw themselves into Azeroth on a regular basis.

Never the Alliance
I could probably best be described as a dabbler when it comes to WoW. I enjoy the exploring but never really felt the need to race to the level cap. I'd much prefer to just wander about, taking in the sights and really getting immersed in the story. If I got bored with a character I'd rolled, I'd just go and start up another one. Never Alliance though. Who wants to be the good guys? Playing video games is meant to be about escapism, surely!

Anyway, about six months ago, I came to a realisation that I just wasn't playing it as much, and the monthly subscription was no longer worth it. So, I stopped. Simple as that. But the little icon still sat on the desktop, waiting for the day that knew would come. The day I went back. Which happened to be Wednesday December 8, 2010. The day that Cataclysm landed on my doorstep.

In all honesty, I knew that I'd go back as soon as this latest expansion came out, so my return wasn't that much of a surprise. I've listened to The Instance (the best WoW-related podcast out there) even when I'm not playing. Their excitement (as well as a friend of mine who works at Blizzard getting all hyped up) as the day drew closer got me excited about the game too.

Cataclysm is basically a reboot. The story is that a bloody huge dragon called Deathwing (aka: The Destroyer) has torn through the dimensional barrier that surrounds Azeroth. This caused a Cataclysm (hence the name) that has pretty much changed the whole game world.

Areas that were previously lush jungle, for example, are now little more than scorched earth, while the deserts now seem filled with greenery. Different races have found themselves having to pick up and ship out to new places. Things, as the cliché goes, will never be the same again (which is true ? the worlds of vanilla WoW, Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King are no more, replaced forever by this post-destruction world.

The Worgen Tops
I started from the very beginning, checking out the new races. The Horde gets the goblins, techy little buggers who have the ability to create brilliant machines. The werewolfian Worgen join The Alliance (finally, in my opinion, giving the good guys something worth playing!)

Both starting areas are impressive in different ways: the Worgen all dark and brooding. The Goblins a hive of steampunk activity. What with it still being very early days, both areas are busy as all hell, but there's an almost party atmosphere as people are getting to grips with their new avatars. If you're struggling, there are plenty of people around to ask for assistance (at least on Azuremyst server, anyway).

After playing around with the two new races for a while, I wanted to see what changes had been made to an old favourite of mine, so I created a new Tauren character; a Paladin, which was never previously available. There are lots of new classes for the old races in Cataclysm by the way.

There was an air of familiarity as I traipsed around completing tasks, but you can certainly see a difference. The story has more of a flow to it, especially compared to my previous experience. I'll talk more about it in my full review, but you can certainly see that Blizzard have done their damnedest to make this as accessible as possible to new players. Levelling up seems a lot quicker, with less of a grind needed in order to progress. The early game seems to be ripping by.

WoW will always be divisive amongst gamers ? those who enjoy it will defend it to the end, while their opposite numbers will decry it as WarCrack or a slightly prettier-than-average spreadsheet. However, despite the predictions from many quarters, the game lives on, moving into its seventh year with subscribers remaining steady at around 12 million worldwide. Being one of those subscribers, I think that with the introduction of Cataclysm I'm now ready to throw myself into it a little more.

One of the complaints I had with the game was that it can sometimes be impenetrable, especially to those who haven't been there from the beginning. Blizzard seem to have taken this into consideration and want to include everyone in the fun.

I reckon I can do it now. I think I can get involved. Better than that, I want to get involved. I'm still not going to race to Level 85 (yes, the level cap's increased again), I want to take my time, but I do want to get there. If you see a Tauren Paladin called Vachefort (yes, silly name) wandering around Azuremyst, come up and say hello! Unless you're dirty Alliance, in which case I'll batter you.

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